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Shorter Briefs, Fewer Waiver Traps

Under two new proposals to amend Pennsylvania’s Rules of Appellate Procedure lawyers will be writing shorter briefs with less risk of waiver.

Briefs would be shorter because the proposal is to move from the current 70 page limit to the alternatives of either (a) a 30 page limit or (b) a “word count” of 14,000 words that would translate to approximately 56 pages assuming 250 words per page.  Reply briefs would move from the current limit of 25 pages to either (a) 15 pages or (b) 7,000 words.  The proposal tracks the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.  The same proposal would eliminate existing page restrictions on the statement of questions and the summary of argument and would require the text of briefs to be displayed in 14 point and footnotes in 12 point type.  Comments are due May 7, 2012.  42 Pa.B. 1640 (March 31, 2012).

Risk of waiver would be decreased under a separate proposal to limit the appellant’s responsibility to provide the appellate court with a complete original record on appeal to those documents actually listed in the trial court’s transmission of the record to the appellate court. The intent is to provide a ”safe harbor” from waiver where parties rely on the contents of the list of record documents prepared by the prothonotary or clerk.  The same proposal would require administrative agencies for the first time to provide the parties on appeal with a list of documents transmitted to the appellate court as the record on appeal.  Comments are due May 31, 2012.  42 Pa. B. 1986 (April 14, 2012).

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